From summer to summer, the Democratic Memory Law has been taking steps forward. This has been the definitive one after a procedure that began in September 2020. After an arduous negotiation saved by the agreement of the Government parties with some regular partners such as EH Bildu, PNV, Más País or PDeCAT, Congress has given the go-ahead to a norm against which the right has risen up.
Goodbye to Franco’s nobility: who received the 33 titles that the future memory law will eliminate
He is expected to go to the Senate at the turn of the summer, in September. In this text we break down its main measures and novelties:
Illegality of the Franco regime and its sentences. The law condemns the coup d’état perpetrated on July 18, 1936 and the subsequent Franco dictatorship, which it declares “illegal”. This term has been added to also refer to all convictions and sanctions produced for political, ideological, conscientious or religious belief reasons and that, until now, the text only described as “null”. Similarly, the courts, Francoist bodies and all their resolutions are proclaimed “illegal” and not just “illegitimate.”
Violation of human rights until 1983. The rule extends the period of persecution and violence until the promulgation of the Constitution, in 1978, and until that date temporarily limits the investigation and recognition of the victims of Francoism, who will appear in a state census. However, the creation of a technical commission has been added to study the cases of violation of human rights to people due to “their struggle for the consolidation of democracy, fundamental rights and democratic rights” until December 31, 1983. This commission will evaluate “possible ways of recognition and reparation.”
This is the novelty of the law against which the right has charged most forcefully, assuring that even the ETA of the 1980s could be considered “democratic resistance to a late Francoist government.” However, sources from the Executive point out that what has been agreed is to create a commission that will study human rights violations such as the murder of Yolanda González by the extreme right in 1980 and insist that the rule does not extend its temporal scope of application.
The Amnesty Law. The law passed in 1977, which in practice became an obstacle to judging the crimes of Francoism, will not be repealed, as ERC requested. Finally, United We Can and the PSOE agreed on an amendment that establishes that “it will be interpreted and applied in accordance with conventional international law and international humanitarian law”, by which “war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and torture have the consideration of imprescriptible and not subject to amnesty”. The text creates a Prosecutor of the Human Rights and Democratic Memory Chamber with which he intends to promote the investigations of the crimes.
The Basque, Catalan and Galician language, victims. The negotiation with the groups has added to the norm the recognition of the Catalan and Basque self-government institutions and the Basque, Catalan and Galician languages and cultures in their linguistic territorial areas as victims of the dictatorship. The victims will have “the right to full recognition and reparation by the State.” In addition, an evaluation of the “cultural and linguistic repression and persecution of Francoism” will be carried out.
New name for the Valley of the Fallen. As a novelty, the name of the largest mass grave in Spain built by Franco’s order will be changed and will be renamed Valle de Cuelgamuros. A resignification of the complex is planned, which has yet to be finalized, with the aim of making it a place of democratic memory that “will make known, through research and dissemination plans and mechanisms, the circumstances of its construction, the historical period in which it is inserted and its meaning”. In addition, it will extinguish the Valley of the Fallen Foundation. To this will be added the exhumation of the victims for which the Government already has everything prepared after the justice has lifted the precautionary measures that paralyzed it. So far, 104 families have requested it.
Transfer of Primo de Rivera. As part of this resignification, the remains of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of the Spanish Falange, must leave the “pre-eminent place” they occupy, in the main altar of the basilica. The idea of the Government is to agree with the family to avoid as much as possible a battle similar to the one that occurred with Franco’s exhumation. Thus, they have offered him the possibility of burying him in the crypts or taking him to another place they wish.
The exhumations, responsibility of the State. The State will be in charge of searching for, identifying and, where appropriate, exhuming the remains of the disappeared through the implementation of state and multi-year exhumation plans. In other words, the Administration will be responsible for searching for the remains of thousands of reprisals. And it will do it ex officio or by request. Until now, this work is carried out by historical memory associations through grants.
Farewell to Franco’s nobility. The law will remove from noble titles granted by Franco those who at the time came to commit war crimes and play a decisive role in the dictatorship. At first, the mandate to the Government was to prepare a catalog, but an agreed amendment provides for the elimination of 33 directly. The decorations and rewards granted to members of the Francoist repression apparatus will also be reviewed, the revocation of which will entail the loss of economic rights.
An audit of seized assets. The project approved by the Government already included carrying out an audit of the assets seized during the war and the dictatorship. It has now been determined that it should be done within a year. The law also recognizes “the right to compensation” for the plundering produced “for political, ideological reasons, conscience or religious belief”, but does not specify how they will be repaired.
Cheap repair. This has been one of the main demands of critical voices with the new norm. The law still does not explicitly recognize the right to economic compensation as part of the comprehensive reparation of victims. What has finally been incorporated is the creation of a technical commission that within a year will have to prepare a study that collects what economic measures aimed at the victims have been carried out so far with the aim of making recommendations “on the degree of coverage achieved and rectifiable deficits”. According to government data, so far 21.75 billion euros have been awarded to 608,000 victims of the war and the dictatorship.
Victims’ right to truth. There will be a victim support office that will carry out outreach and awareness-raising activities. An independent commission “of an academic, temporary and non-judicial nature” will also be set up with the aim of clarifying human rights violations by receiving testimonies and investigating. In addition, the “essential role” of the “historical debate” is recognized to form “a historical conscience adequate to the dignity of the citizens of a free and democratic society”, without prejudice to “the inherent uncertainty of the aforementioned debate” when referring to events of the past, on which hypotheses or conjectures can be formulated.
DNA Bank. A DNA bank of victims will be created where biological samples of relatives will be stored in order to compare them with a view to future identifications. After the debate of the law in commission, “people affected by the abduction of newborns” have been incorporated, that is, stolen babies.
Nationality for descendants of brigadistas. The norm grants Spanish nationality to international brigade members, but it comes late and, due to age, it is difficult for it to mean anything, since the last known survivor died last year. For this reason, an amendment from United We Can has been included that provides for granting it to descendants “that prove a continued work of disseminating the memory of their ancestors and the defense of democracy.”
Places of democratic memory. The figure of places of memory is created to qualify the heritage in which events of special relevance linked to democratic memory will take place. They will be protected and an inventory will be created. As a novelty, the specific declaration of the Fort of San Cristóbal (Navarra) as a place of memory has been incorporated. In addition, within a year, the Donostia Summit Palace, which currently belongs to the Ministry of Territorial Policy, will be transferred to the Donostia City Council “for activities in accordance with the purpose of the law”.
Files and documents. A Historical Memory Documentation Center located in Salamanca will be created to gather and safeguard all possible documentary collections related to the war and the dictatorship. A Virtual Documentation Center will also be created to facilitate access to documents that are physically in other places. At this point, there are two novelties: the obligation to enable specific budget items and incorporate into the center the archives of the government of the dictatorship that are in the hands of private entities or individuals.
Extinction of Francoist foundations. The text contemplates the apology of Francoism as a cause for the extinction of the foundations, a requirement to which the Government added as a condition that “humiliation of the victims” occur after the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) recommended it in its report , in which he pointed out that advocating Francoism could be protected by law.
Democratic memory in the classroom. The law details that textbooks and curricular materials will have to develop content on “the repression that occurred during the War and the Dictatorship” and, in general, the educational community will have to promote “the right to truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition”. A path that has already been started by the new History curriculum designed by the Ministry of Education, which among other things, calls the 1936 uprising a coup d’état for the first time.
Sanctions. The text incorporates a sanctioning regime, unlike the 2007 Historical Memory Law, with fines that can reach a maximum of 150,000 euros. Among the very serious infractions, is the destruction of graves or places of memory. To them have been added in the debate the destruction of public or private documents on democratic memory or “the misappropriation of documents”.
Recognition of the democratic memory of women. Public administrations must adopt the necessary measures and actions to recognize “the active role of women in intellectual and political life, in the promotion, advancement and defense of democratic values and fundamental rights,” it reads. The law recognizes that LGTBI people suffered systematic and specific repression based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Within six months, a working commission on Memory and Reconciliation with the Roma People in Spain will be created.